Hand specialist to assess if Hairston needs surgery


Second baseman says knuckle is mending fine


March 14, 2004|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Orioles second baseman Jerry Hairston will visit a Fort Lauderdale hand specialist tomorrow to determine whether his fractured knuckle requires surgery that would delay his return.

The injury has forced Hairston to wear a splint on his right ring finger and put his availability for the April 4 opener in doubt. He could begin the season on the disabled list.

"I really believe I won't need surgery," he said before yesterday's 7-1 loss to the New York Mets' split squad. "It feels really good. Sometimes you just know."

And sometimes it's wise to concede that others know more.

Hairston has spoken with a few teammates, including David Segui and Tim Raines Jr., who sustained broken fingers during their careers. He's trying to gauge how quickly he can get back on the field.

The Orioles' first regular-season game comes exactly one month after Hairston suffered his injury while diving into third base. He's played one inning this spring, stealing two bases, scoring a run and disappearing from the lineup.

"If I don't have surgery, I could be ready to go real quick," he said. "I don't know if I'll play on Opening Day, but I want to give myself every opportunity. That's my goal, and I think it's realistic.

"Hopefully, it's healing fast."

Roberts returns

Second baseman Brian Roberts returned to the lineup after missing four consecutive games with a strained left groin muscle. He also sat out the opener because of back spasms.

"He's getting all that nagging stuff out of the way," manager Lee Mazzilli said.

Shortstop Miguel Tejada and third baseman Melvin Mora also started yesterday after suffering minor injuries in Thursday's game in Fort Myers. Tejada strained a muscle in his lower right leg and Mora was hit above the left elbow.

Center fielder Luis Matos should be joining them in a few days after the Orioles determined on Friday that he has a superficial stress fracture in his right shin.

Mazzilli said it's likely that Matos will start tomorrow's game against the Minnesota Twins in Fort Lauderdale. He won't be subjected to the long bus ride to Fort Myers for today's game against Boston.

"I want him to hit for a couple days before we put him in a game," Mazzilli said.

Matos will be used as the designated hitter for at least one start before returning to the field.

"We still have three weeks," Mazzilli said, "so that's plenty of time."

Ramsay to throw BP

Still intent on doing more this spring than just working out, left-hander Rob Ramsay will throw batting practice today for the first time since reporting to camp.

Ramsay has been brought along slowly by the Orioles after having a tumor removed from his brain in 2002 and pitching at two levels of the minors last year in the San Diego Padres' organization. He threw on the side his first day in Fort Lauderdale before being shut down while the team consulted with his doctors and researched his treatment.

The Orioles recently cleared Ramsay to throw again - he wears a batting helmet for protection - but today presents his first chance to face live hitters.

"I'm pretty stoked about it," he said. "I guess this is another step."

Vice president Mike Flanagan said the club is waiting for Ramsay to build up arm strength before letting him pitch in a game.

Fehr stops by

Donald Fehr, executive director of the players association, visited the stadium yesterday after testifying before the Senate Commerce Committee last week on drug testing in pro sports.

Fehr was in camp to follow up on Wednesday's annual meeting with the team, which he couldn't attend. He declined to speak with reporters. "I'm just here to see the guys, in case they have any questions," he said.

Around the horn

The Orioles have committed 17 errors in 10 games. Tejada, Mora and Mike Fontenot each have two. ... Pitchers Richard Stahl and Jeff Montani returned to the minor league camp in Sarasota, Fla. ... ... Comcast SportsNet will broadcast its first exhibition game tomorrow, when Omar Daal faces former Oriole Rick Helling.

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